Painted in 1941, Peonies and Elephants exemplifies Hermann Dudley Murphy’s Boston School credentials, particularly in his masterful rendition of light and reflections, and in his inclusion of flowers and decorative objects that echo the refined tastes of those collecting his work. The viewer’s eyes are immediately engaged by the contrast of the deep magenta color of the peonies with the shimmering metallic tones of the tablecloth and background screen, and Murphy’s consummate eye for detail is demonstrated through his sensitive interpretation of the leaves and stems immersed in water. The painting is complemented by a handsome Murphy-style Arts & Crafts frame, carved by Feliciano Nemiccolo.
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During the 1920s, Murphy began producing the carefully arranged floral still lifes for which he is today best known. These odes to beauty and to the academic tradition he continued to espouse in the face of more modernist trends found ready collectors when exhibited at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy and with Vose Galleries in 1925 and 1928.
Private collection, Westwood, Massachusetts
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 31258, August 1994
Returned to owner, April 1995
(verso of canvas) Peonies and Elephants / H. Dudley Murphy / 19(M)41
Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 31258